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San Francisco's big Chinese New Year parade rejects Falun Gong

2007-09-06 Author:By: Phillip Matier & Andrew Ross

It's still a month till San Francisco's big Chinese New Year parade, but already the fireworks are bursting all around.

This year, the bang is over the parade organizers' refusal to allow devotees of China's banned Falun Gong movement to join in the Feb. 11 festivities.

Troubles started last year when Chinese Chamber of Commerce executive and parade maven Rose Pak -- who has been either a friend or foe of every politician in San Francisco -- declared the spiritual group a cult and banned its practitioners from the parade.

Pak, who is very friendly with Beijing, said Falun Gong was also a political organization -- and as such, didn't belong in the parade any more than any other anti- or pro-Chinese group.

Pak's ban prompted in-your-face Supervisor Chris Daly to festoon his own parade car with a Falun Gong banner.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks back, when Daly joined a dozen or so Falun Gong backers outside the Chinese chamber's offices, where they urged parade sponsors to lift the ban in time for this year's event.

Not that it did much good. Pak pressed her members to vote thumbs-down on Falun Gong, which they dutifully did.

Now, Daly is vowing to sit out this year's parade altogether and may urge fellow supervisors to do the same -- though he stopped short of calling for an all-out boycott.

"I'm certainly not going to participate in a parade that excludes a contingent like this, especially in the context of the systematic persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China,'' Daly said. "San Franciscans who value diversity and tolerance should not participate in something that practices exclusion and discrimination.''

Fellow Supervisor Fiona Ma said she wouldn't rule out staying home, either, if Falun Gong members were banned -- and she said parade sponsors must abide by the city's anti-discrimination laws if they expect to receive city funding.

But if the pols like Daly and Ma want to sit out this year's parade, that's just fine with Pak.

"Let me assure you, people are not lined up on the streets to watch politicians,'' Pak said.

As for Daly's assertion she is doing Beijing's bidding: "Are you kidding me?" Pak said. "Since when do I listen to the Chinese government? If there is one person who doesn't listen to anybody, that's me.''

Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. They can also be heard on KGO Radio on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Phil Matier can be seen regularly on KRON 4 News, and also on Sunday morning at 9:30 on his own show, "4 the Record." Got a tip? Call them at (415) 777-8815 or drop them an e-mail at matierandross@sfchronicle.com.

This article is selected from "Goliath the robot attacked in Pacific Heights", written by Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross, appeared on page B - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, January 8, 2006. URL of this article is: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/01/08/BAGPDGKAG21.DTL&feed=rss.bayarea